Cowboy or Western Funeral Attire: What to Wear (And Not to Wear)

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You might be surprised to learn that cowboys are still alive and well, roping, riding, working cattle, and taming the last of the wild range across America. In places like Wyoming, Texas, Colorado, and parts of the midwest, especially, is where this special breed of rugged pioneer can be found.

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Cowboys have a culture all of their own and, should you attend a cowboy’s funeral, you’ll get to see a glimpse of their special, tight-knit community. Perhaps you’re even part of that community.

As with any funeral, it’s important to understand a little bit about the person’s culture to make sure you don’t make any etiquette missteps. So, if you’re planning to attend a cowboy’s funeral, keep reading to understand just what you should and shouldn’t wear.

What Dress Do You Typically See at a Cowboy, Western, or Texas Funeral?

Cowboys live a unique life and their culture is inextricably intertwined with their personality. As such, cowboy culture often influences the way events are held. While you might know what to wear to a funeral for city folk or understand wake etiquette for a Catholic family, attending a cowboy funeral might be a bit different than you’re used to. Here are some things to expect at a cowboy’s funeral.

Boots and hats: Cowboys work, eat, and play wearing cowboy boots and their hats. Expect to see locals, cowboys, and area ranchers wearing these pieces of their daily garb.

Bolo ties instead of dress ties: Bolo ties are popular among some cowboys. They wear these instead of the types of ties you wear to the office.

Suit jackets with blue jeans: This look is seen as hip and stylish today, but cowboys can lay claim to starting the trend. You’ll see this combination at cowboy funerals instead of the more traditional full suit and jacket combination.

Dress vest instead of a suit jacket: Some cowboys will don an especially nice vest instead of a suit jacket to go with the nicest pair of jeans they own.

What’s the Difference Between a Cowboy-Themed Funeral vs. a Cowboy’s Funeral?

Funerals today are shifting from impersonal events to events that are tailored to honor the personality, likes, and preferences of the deceased. Some funerals are even “themed,” and guests are told to come wearing certain items of clothing, bearing a certain flower, or dressed in a certain style. Some themed funerals have even gone viral, gaining national attention and appreciation.

There’s a big difference between a cowboy-themed funeral and a regular funeral for a cowboy. Though both may have similar elements, there are differences to note, especially in what guests should and should not wear. Let’s break down the difference between these two funerals.

Cowboy-themed funeral

A cowboy-themed funeral is a funeral or celebration of life service held for someone who loved the idea of being a cowboy, a child who enjoyed cowboy things, or someone who emulated the cowboy way of life. 

Celebrations of life are typically more upbeat and focus on remembering the person as they lived, rather than mourning their departure. If this is the type of funeral you are invited to and the invitation asks you to wear anything cowboy-related, you can bring out whatever cowboy gear you have. Boots, vests, and even brightly colored cowboy hats are appropriate, especially if the person wore these items while they lived.

Funeral for a cowboy

As opposed to a cowboy-themed funeral, a funeral for a cowboy is typically going to be a sober event that is similar to a traditional funeral. You may see other cowboys wearing boots and cowboy hats, but the mood will be somber and on the formal side, and proper cowboy hat and clothing etiquette will be followed.

What Should Adults Wear to a Cowboy or Western Funeral?

The general guidelines regarding western wear vary slightly depending on whether you’re attending a cowboy-themed funeral or celebration of life service or a funeral for a cowboy. Here are tips for both types of events.

For a cowboy-themed funeral 

When attending a cowboy-themed funeral or celebration of life service, you might be asked to wear cowboy-style clothing. In this case, it’s appropriate to don the cowboy clothing you have, even if it’s on the brighter side. Celebrations of life are typically uplifting events that focus on the good times, so brighter clothing is accepted.

If in doubt, contact a close family friend or member of the family to ask for specific guidelines.

For a cowboy’s funeral

If you are part of the cowboy community and you regularly wear a cowboy hat and boots, it’s appropriate for you to wear those items to a funeral along with your jeans and dress jacket or dress. On the other hand, if you’re going to a cowboy’s funeral and you’ve never worn a pair of boots or put on a cowboy hat, it would look strange for you to show up in either one. Simply attend in the type of funeral attire you would normally wear to a funeral.

What Should a Kid or Teen Wear to a Cowboy or Western Funeral?

What a child or teen wears to a cowboy or western funeral depends on whether the funeral is for a cowboy or is a cowboy-themed funeral. We’ll cover both dress codes in this section.

For a cowboy-themed funeral

Should you take a child or teen to a funeral that is cowboy-themed, you can let them wear jeans, boots, and any cowboy hat they have. For young kids, this means even a red or pink play cowboy hat is appropriate.

For a cowboy’s funeral

Treat a cowboy’s funeral as you would any other funeral. If you are part of the cowboy community, then it is appropriate to have your child wear their best cowboy hat to the funeral provided they follow cowboy hat etiquette. They can also wear their boots, a nice pair of jeans, and a nice shirt. All attire should be of a dark or somber color, as is appropriate for any funeral.

Is It Okay to Wear a Hat to a Cowboy or Western Funeral?

Cowboy hat culture has a set of rules and etiquette all its own, and these rules include important events like going to a wedding or a funeral. If you want to wear a cowboy hat to a funeral, here are some general guidelines and cowboy hat etiquette rules. 

First, you can wear a cowboy hat outside so long as no one is praying. It’s a sign of respect to remove your hat when someone prays, so expect to sweep it off your head and hold it at that time.

Second, you can wear your hat when coming into a funeral home or church from the outside, but you should take it off once inside. Many churches and funeral homes out west have hat racks for this purpose. The hat should be left off until you go back outside.

Finally, if you choose to wear a hat, always wear a standard cowboy hat. Most cowboy hats are white, cream, brown, or black. The darker colors are appropriate to wear to a funeral. Never wear a brightly colored cowboy hat such as those commonly available at tourist shops.

A note about hats: If you are attending a cowboy’s funeral and you’ve never worn a cowboy hat, don’t feel like you need to do so. Go wearing what you normally would and, hat or no hat, the family will appreciate your attendance.

Is There Anything You Should Avoid Wearing to a Cowboy or Western Funeral?

What you wear to a funeral, again, depends on whether this is a funeral for a cowboy or a cowboy-themed funeral. These are two very different funerals and have different sets of funeral etiquette. Needless to say, it’s critical to understand which one you’re attending.

If the funeral invitation says the event is a cowboy-themed celebration of life service and requests that you dress in your cowboy gear in honor of their loved one, then you can go in the best cowboy clothing you have. This is because the family wants you to show up in whatever cowboy gear you own to celebrate their loved one’s life.

However, if you’re attending a traditional funeral that happens to be for a cowboy, then it’s safe to say that you should approach this the same way you would with any other funeral. Fellow cowboys will dress in their nicest cowboy garb, and guests from out of town will be expected to show up in funeral-appropriate clothing.

So what should you avoid if you’re attending the funeral of a cowboy or rancher? Here are several items to leave in the closet.

Flashy colors: Most cowboys enjoy wearing a bright-colored shirt or pair of flashy boots from time to time. However, this is not the time. Leave your flashy gear and bright colors at home.

Look-at-me belt buckles: Bull and bronc riders pride themselves on the buckles they win at rodeo and tournaments. Many are worn as a point of pride. However, a funeral is not the place to show off your hard-earned medal. Go with a regular buckle you’d wear when out working cattle.

Spurs: We hope this one is obvious, but if you’re not on top of a horse and working cattle, you don’t need to wear spurs. Especially at a funeral. 

Honoring a Cowboy’s Life and Legacy

The way of the cowboy is more than history; it is a living legacy that gets passed down from generation to generation. Attending the funeral of a cowboy in appropriate clothing is a way to honor their life, their culture, and their unique contribution to the world. If given a chance, consider reading a cowboy funeral poem or two in their honor as you bid them a final farewell.

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